Thursday, August 20, 2009

Boterkoek (Dutch Buttercake)

Tracking down "Dutch Cuisine" has proven difficult. For a people who eat very well, they have not contributed much to the larger food culture. The most distinct "Dutch food" that I've eaten has Indonesian origins, and as far as I can tell, the rest originated from my Oma (grandmother). The one and only Dutch cookbook that I've seen, The Netherlands Cookbook by Heleen A.M. Halverhout, was originally published in 1957. It's a tiny thing with a small number of meat-and-potatoes dishes and it rarely adventures beyond spicing with nutmeg and salt. The strongest flavoring is stubborn Dutch pride. When I saw that my mother was looking for my Oma's buttercake recipe, I looked in this cookbook. Here are the two versions:

--2 cups Flour
--1 cup Butter (REAL BUTTER!)
--1 cup Super-fine Sugar
--1 small Egg, beaten
--Pinch of Salt
--3 oz Candied Ginger, finely chopped (for version 1)
--2 cups Almond Paste (for version 2) (To make yourself, grind 2 cups Blanched Almonds, then mix in 1/4 cup Sugar, 1 Small Egg and the grated Peel of Half a Lemon. Grind once more.)

Version 1 (with Ginger): Knead flour, butter, sugar, half the beaten egg, salt and ginger into a smooth paste. Butter a pie pan of 1-inch deep and 8-inch diameter. Press the dough into it. Brush the rest of the egg on top of the dough and use the back of a knife to carve "decorations" into it. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 Degrees Fahrenheit. While still hot, press down the middle of the cake with the back of a spoon. When firm to the touch, turn out on wire rack. The cake should be soft on the inside and hard on the outside.

Version 2 (with Almond Paste): Knead flour, butter, sugar, the beaten egg, and salt into a firm ball. Divide in half. Butter a pie pan of 1-inch deep and 8-inch diameter. Press half the dough into it. Spread almond paste on top. Press the other half of the dough on top of that. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until golden brown, about an hour. Remove from pan and cool on rack.


clairz said...

Mmm, Dutch cooking. I think that I loved everything that Oma ever cooked for us. Now we have a quest to find some Dutch recipe books/websites, a search that appeals to my librarian soul.

clairz said...

I've added a link to the website, Dutch Cooking, over on the side of the page where we link to recipe and cooking websites.

The author starts out by saying something similar to what you said: A country so much characterized by its Calvinist heritage and the generally perfectly matching grey cloudy weather surely can't have a fancy cuisine, and it hasn't.
Superficially this is only illustrated by the traditional Dutch home cooked meal: potatoes, accompanied by a piece of meat and boiled vegetables. The whole lot of it preferably covered with heaps of gravy. Herbs and spices appear to be obsolete altogether, which makes the food pretty bland.

But then he goes on to say that things are changing, and offers lots of recipes to prove his point.